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Do you want President Mubarak to step down?

Claudia Bradshaw Claudia Bradshaw | 10:41 UK time, Monday, 31 January 2011


This topic was discussed on the programme on Mon 31 Jan. Click here to listen.

Washington and European capitals want to keep Egypt stable and allied to the West. Up until now, President Mubarak has been viewed as a man who can deliver that.

But now it seems they are not so sure if they should back him and push him to change, or to support an alternative.

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted on 29th Jan that the U.S. wanted to see Mubarak fulfil his pledges of reform:

The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action.

But later he tweets what Hillary Clinton said over the weekend:

#SecClinton today: U.S. supports a peaceful, orderly transition to free, fair and credible elections that lead to real democracy in #egypt.

And then again:

#SecClinton today: The government must open an inclusive national dialogue with the people of #Egypt as part of a lengthy process of reform.

Do they want Mubarak's government to have a dialogue with the people or do they want a transition to a new government?

Some Egyptians certainly feel let down.  Osam in Cairo says: "Obama has to be on our side. Where is your democracy? You say Arabs are just donkeys, but the USA is supporting the system, not the people" and Arab journalist, Shoruk_K tweets: P.J Crowley "support peaceful transition" REALLY? So tear gas canisters MADE IN USA is peaceful? #jan25 #egypt

Mubarak it seems is in no doubt about damage done by previous outside pressure for change in the Middle East. According to leaked US diplomatic cables, he says past attempts have only produced chaos; including the ousting of the Shah in Iran, and the election of Hamas in Gaza.

But opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has pressed the US to do more to abandon Mubarak:

The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years would be the one to implement democracy. This is a farce... And you (the United States) have to stop the life support to the dictator and root for the people.

In the region, reactions have been very mixed. Some in Israel are worried that Mubarak could be replaced by forces that oppose the peace treaty, possibly the Muslim Brotherhood. Barry Rubin writes in the Jerusalem Post: "The situation could not be more dangerous and might be the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution three decades ago" and cites a recent poll which says that twice as many Egyptians support Islamists over modernisers.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

And Israel is not alone in its concerns. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have all reportedly criticised the protesters. Perhaps some leaders fear the example could spread in their direction. While Iran has said Egyptian authorities should respect the demonstrators.

But Egyptian protesters say "We are not Iran, We are not Afghanistan. Egypt is different."  Joseph Mayton likens the moment to Eastern Europe in 1989 and says attempts by some US media outlets to compare the uprising to another Iran is 'simply fearmongering'.

What do you think? Do you want President Mubarak to step down?

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